In the memo, Ammons points out red drum are the most sought after fish by members of CCA-NC. He notes the recreational pursuit of red drum constitutes over $50 million in economic contribution to our coastal communities and by contrast, the value of the commercial harvest is only $200,000. This makes red drum one of North Carolina's most valuable recreational species.
Red drum had been overfished for many years. Very restrictive harvest regulations that were put in place seven years ago have been effective in causing the stock to be on the road to recovery. Contrary to misleading false reports by certain individuals, red drum are not yet recovered. Indeed the current FMP does not even take into account the loss of huge numbers of dead juvenile red drum from the small mesh gill net fishery.
The management plans for red drum are currently being reviewed. There are some dangerous provisions in the options for new regulations on which all of us should voice our concerns.
The review offers two options for commercial regulation. One, supported by the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is to keep things status quo at 7 fish per day. Another proposed regulation would allow commercial fishermen to increase their daily harvest from the current 7 to 10 fish.
Not only will this jeopardize the recovery of the stock but may cause this fishery to become valuable enough that they become targeted by commercial fishermen and increase the harvest dramatically. In the early stages of the current management regulations, less restrictive daily limits lead to massive overages in the commercial catch. We do not need to repeat previous management mistakes.
The other proposal of concern is the use of small mesh gill nets in nursery areas. We are opposed to use of these nets in nursery areas at all. However, there are again two proposals. One requires attendance of these nets in nursery areas 24/7/365 but only north of Core Sound. The other, again supported by DMF, would require attendance year round statewide.
There is no reason to restrict this regulation to the northern area alone. The attendance of these nets year round in nursery areas should be statewide. While this does not totally eliminate the substantial killing of juvenile fish in the nursery areas, it would greatly reduce the current level of impact. Gill nets currently waste nearly as many red drum as are harvested legally.
Ammons implores all recreational fishermen to have their voices heard on these important provisions. Fishermen may attend and should speak up at the upcoming Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) meetings. The RAC meetings are scheduled for Raleigh on March 4, New Bern on March 5, Hatteras on March 6 and Wilmington on March 11.
CCA-NC Advocates telling the committees you want no increase in daily commercial trip limits and want the small mesh gill nets out of nursery areas statewide. At the minimum, the small mesh gill nets should be attended 24/7/365 in all nursery areas statewide.
The locations and times of the meetings follow:
* Raleigh, March 4, 6:00 P.M., at the McKimmon Center;
* New Bern, March 5, 6:00 P.M., at the Craven County Agriculture Center;
* Hatteras, March 6, 6:30 P.M., at Hatteras Civic Center;
* Wilmington, March 11, 6:30 P.M., at Dobo Hall at UNCW;
* Finfish Committee Meeting, Washington, N.C., Noon, at DENR Bldg.
Ammons asks to please pass these meeting dates and times to all fellow fishermen and encourage them to attend the meetings. Don't let the recovery of Red Drum be derailed.